Spotlight on Frank E. Lynch, president of Hydrogen Components, Inc.

By Joanna L. McWilliams, Communications Specialist, Energy Institute

Imagine a world where cars emit water, not toxic fumes.

Dr. Bryan Willson, Executive Director of the Energy Institute with Frank E. Lynch of Hydrogen Components, Inc. at the 25th Anniversary of the Powerhouse celebration.

Frank E. Lynch, president of Hydrogen Components, Inc., doesn’t just imagine that world, he has devoted his life to building it.

As he says, “it has always been hydrogen, hydrogen, hydrogen” for him. No other fuel source has captivated his interest and garnered his attention in the same way.

Hydrogen is a light-weight, non-toxic, gaseous element that when burned produces water. Its properties and perplexities have captivated scientific minds like Lynch’s since the 18th century.

Hydrogen, while light and clean, is difficult to store. This problem though, has never deterred Lynch from researching the element.

Lynch grew up in California and served in the U.S. Army. He worked his way though some community college classes, and then an engineering degree at UCLA in the early 70s. At UCLA, Lynch raced hydrogen fueled hot rods at General Motor’s proving grounds. He organized and led a team of students in the areas of metal hydride and hydrogen-fueled engine development. This work culminated in the team’s award-winning entry in the 1972 Urban Vehicle Design Competition. Before Lynch could finish his master’s program, he was hired by a hydrogen company in Utah.

Lynch and Dr. Willson walk through the Powerhouse.

But Lynch always remembered the pollution in Los Angeles. Back in the early 70s there were no emission controls, and the city was filled with toxic smog.

The big three air pollutants of concern that occupied Lynch’s mind were carbon monoxide, unburned hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides (NOx). These are emitted by traditional fuel vehicles during combustion when petroleum is burned. NOx interacts with oxygen in the and sunlight to eventually cause ozone, smog, acid rain and fine particle pollution, all of which is detrimental to human health and the environment.

These real concerns led Lynch to co-invent a better fuel alternative using a unique blend of natural gas and hydrogen known commercially as Hythane®. Hythane® drops the amount of emitted nitrogen oxide down to lower, and therefore less harmful levels. The remaining unburned hydrocarbons (unburned fuel) from natural gas or Hythane® are largely methane. Methane does not contribute to photochemical smog.

The old blue Chevy pickup truck that Lynch drives around town today runs on his creation — Hythane®. It met Ultra Low Emission Vehicle standards in California Air Resources Board tests during 1991.

In the early 90s, Lynch’s interest in creating Hythane® led him to CSU’s Energy Institute, and Powerhouse Energy Campus. Lynch’s company, Hydrogen Components, Inc., under contract with the Department of Energy, sub-contracted with the Energy Institute to conduct a scientific study on hydrogen and natural gas. That study remains the most comprehensive study to date on this topic.

Dr. Bryan Willson, executive director of the Energy Institute, worked with Lynch to build a dynamometer test cell in the Powerhouse. This device puts torque on an engine, and allows researchers to simulate and study how an engine will perform during on-road use. Willson and his team also set up equipment to measure emissions from Hythane®.

This study and collaboration spurred Hythane® projects around the world. For instance, the Denver International Airport ran a three truck comparison of natural gas, Hythane® and gasoline in which the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment ran the emissions testing. Other pilot projects followed at Erie, Penn., Montreal, Quebec and Palm Springs, Calif.

In 2004 Eden Energy, Perth, Western Australia, purchased the Hythane® patents and trademark from Hydrogen Components. Eden formed Hythane Company, LLC in Littleton, Colo. and initiated several pilot projects around the world, most notably in India (see edeninnovations.com).

Lynch takes a look with Dr. Willson at some of the new projects at the Powerhouse.

The collaboration resulted in more than research. Lynch had the chance to work with and later hire one of the Energy Institute’s student workers — Justin Fulton. The two worked together in the development of Hythane® while the project was active at the Powerhouse, and later Lynch offered Fulton his first engineering job at Hydrogen Components, Inc. Fulton is now the lead engineer on the OptiBlend project at Eden Innovations.

Lynch is proud of his work on Hythane® and his collaboration with CSU’s Energy Institute. He recently attended the 25th Anniversary of the Powerhouse and had a chance to catch up with researchers who worked on the study, and see the dramatic updates that have taken place in the facilities. Lynch says that the future is in Hydrogen because at some point it will make not only environmental, but also economic sense to switch over to it as a fuel source.

To learn more about Lynch and his work please visit his website at hydrogencomponents.com.